Bacteria are rapidly killed on solid copper surfaces, so this material could be useful to limit the spread of multiple-drug-resistant bacteria in hospitals. In Escherichia coli, the DNA-protecting Dps protein and the NADH:ubiquinone oxidoreductase II Ndh were not involved in tolerance to copper ions or survival on solid copper surfaces. Decreased copper tolerance under anaerobic growth conditions in the presence of ascorbate and with melibiose as the carbon source indicated that sodium-dependent symport systems may provide an import route for Cu(I) into the cytoplasm. Glutathione-free ΔcopA ΔgshA double mutants of E. coli were more rapidly inactivated on solid copper surfaces than glutathione-containing wild-type cells. Therefore, while DNA protection by Dps was not required, glutathione was needed to protect the cytoplasm and the DNA against damage mediated by solid copper surfaces, which may explain the differences in the molecular mechanisms of killing between glutathione-containing Gram-negative and glutathione-free Gram-positive bacteria.
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